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Bills' offensive performance might be worst in four decades

By Tim Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- In a week when NFL touchdowns were easier to order than a Super Pack at Mighty Taco, the Buffalo Bills turned in one of the worst offensive performances in their history.

Da'Rick Rogers, an undrafted rookie receiver the Bills cut in the preseason, scored twice as many points as they did Sunday.

Rogers had a pair of touchdowns for the Indianapolis Colts, while the Bills were pulverized, 27-6, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium.

The particulars were foul. The Bills had five giveaways, allowed seven sacks and committed a dozen penalties.

A search of Pro-Football-Reference.com found the Bills became only the 13th team in NFL history to give up at least seven sacks, throw at least four interceptions and not score an offensive touchdown.

Pro-Football-Reference.com's database shows the last time the Bills met that thoroughly impotent criteria was 1971.

The Bills gave up nine sacks unofficially (sacks became an NFL stat in 1982) in a 43-0 loss to the Baltimore Colts at the Rockpile. Dennis Shaw threw three interceptions, and James Harris threw one. O.J. Simpson ran seven times for minus-10 yards.

Also Sunday, rookie quarterback EJ Manuel had the 15th game in Bills history with at least four interceptions and no touchdown passes. The last time was Drew Bledsoe against the Baltimore Ravens in 2004.

Joe Ferguson did it three times, including a six-interception (1974 against the Houston Oilers) and a five-interception (1982 versus the Miami Dolphins) game without a TD toss.

More info from Pro-Football-Reference: Buffalo had its 15th game in which it lost by at least 21 points, failed to score an offensive touchdown and committed five turnovers. But it has happened three times in the past four seasons.

Doug Marrone on release of Da'Rick Rogers: 'We feel that we have better players'

By Jay Skurski

Da'Rick Rogers' production with the Buffalo Bills simply never lived up to the hype.

Because of that, he's now a former Bill.

Rogers was one of five players released this morning, an unceremonious end to a brief career that began as an undrafted free agent in April. Rogers' size (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) and production in the Southeastern Conference with Tennessee in 2011 (67 catches, 1,040 yards, nine touchdowns) led many to believe he had the potential to be the steal of draft weekend — despite the character concerns he came with. Rogers was booted from Tennessee for multiple failed drug tests, and played last season at Tennessee Tech.

But throughout training camp, he was stuck behind players like Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan, Brad Smith and Brandon Kaufman on the depth chart. In Saturday's preseason game at Washington, Rogers did not get an offensive snap.

"He definitely has skill," Bills coach Doug Marrone said today of Rogers. "Along with DeMarco Sampson, who's played well for us in the preseason, but I think when you look at the production of that group, and who's produced for a long period of time, it's just a matter of, it's just as simple as, we feel that we have better players on the roster right now than the players that we released. That's what I've communicated to them."

Marrone said Rogers' production right now, more so than his potential in the future, factored into the decision. In three preseason games, he finished with just one catch (which went for a 6-yard touchdown against Indianapolis).

"I'm a big believer on the production part of it right now rather than what are we going to get down the road," the coach said. "So I think all those players that were released have the ability to play, but we feel as an organization that we just have better players right now."

Along with Rogers and Sampson, the Bills also released conerback Jumal Rolle, defensive back Dominique Ellis and center Ryan Turnley.

Points after: Redskins 30, Bills 7

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' harrowing loss to Washington today at FedEx Field ...

What it means: This game was quintessentially queasy for those who think the objective for any preseason exhibition is to escape without any serious injuries. The Bills lost quarterback Kevin Kolb (head), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and safety Da'Norris Searcy (head) in the first half. C.J. Spiller (knee) went down in the first quarter but returned.

Bills star of the game: Spiller was a surprise starter after the tragic report involving his step-grandfather this morning. We're unsure as of this posting if Spiller knew about it. Spiller might've sat out, but he didn't. He also could've declined to return after his knee scare, but he didn't. Spiller ran eight times for 39 yards and a touchdown.

Stat line of the day: It's not a glittery set of numbers, but they're interesting. Jeff Tuel wasn't supposed to play so much, but with Kolb knocked out of the game, Tuel saw three quarters and went 10 of 17 for 63 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Receivers impacted: With the Bills not throwing much (probably out of caution to not get Tuel hurt), the receiver competition didn't crystallize. Only 12 catches were made. Stevie Johnson had a team-high four catches for 28 yards. Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Da'Rick Rogers had zero receptions.

Defense struggles against backup QBs: Washington was without Robert Griffin III and second-stringer Kirk Cousins. Rex Grossman and Pat White combined to go 18 of 35 for 267 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. White also ran three times for 26 yards and a touchdown.

Penalties improve: This was one of Doug Marrone's main points of emphasis. The Bills committed nine penalties in their preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts and 14 last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Today, they were charged with seven for 38 yards.

Coming up: The Bills close out their preseason schedule Thursday night against the Detroit Lions in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

What to watch for in today's Buffalo at Washington exhibition

By Tim Graham

Here is a handful of areas I'll be looking at this afternoon, when the Buffalo Bills play Washington at FedEx Field:

Kevin Kolb can't win the job, but he can lose it. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was the frontrunner before a knee injury cropped up. Kolb is coming off a 55.9 passer rating in his preseason debut against the Minnesota Vikings. Even if he's sensational today, he won't capture anyone's imagination like Manuel has. But if Kolb struggles, then it's Manuel's job as soon as the rookie is healthy enough to play.

Several notable injured players could see action. The Bills could have their full complement of receivers, with Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham and Brad Smith on the field. All have missed time with hamstring injuries. Johnson has yet to dress. Pass-rusher Mario Williams (foot), middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (shoulder) and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin (groin) and Justin Rogers (hamstring) also are expected to play.

Can cornerbacks not named Stephon Gilmore provide reassurance? The sight of Gilmore's right foot being examined by athletic trainer Bud Carpenter on Tuesday night was unsettling for any Bills fan in attendance at Growney Stadium. The other cornerbacks have been erratic at best. Injuries have made the depth chart look more disconcerting.

Receivers, receivers, receivers. As mentioned already, Johnson will be back. But it would be more educational if he didn't play much. We know what he can do. The Bills will have some difficult decisions to make at receiver, and we'd learn a lot more if players such as Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Da'Rick Rogers got as many targets as possible.

Special-teamers aren't safe yet. The Bills recently awarded their kicking jobs by cutting kicker Rian Lindell and punter Brian Stahovich. Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins hasn't lined up for a field goal longer than 39 yards in a preseason game yet. Powell shanked an ugly punt last week against the Vikings. They need to be consistently good to maintain Doug Marrone's trust.

Nigel Bradham's marijuana ticket first notable problem in 4 years

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills were known as a team of high character under General Manger Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey.

In their three years, one Bills player was arrested. Wide receiver Paul Hubbard, a training-camp body, was busted for driving drunk and, as expected, didn't make the team. That was the extent of the Bills police-blotter activities from June 2009 through this weekend.

Tonawanda News reporter Jessica Bagley wrote today that Bills linebacker Nigel Bradham was issued a ticket for marijuana possession in the Town of Tonawanda a few hours after starting for the Bills in a preseason victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night.

Although not arrested, Bradham could face NFL discipline and becomes the most notable Bill to have a run-in with the law since Cleveland police Tasered and arrested safety Donte Whitner in April 2009.

Continue reading "Nigel Bradham's marijuana ticket first notable problem in 4 years" »

Day 16: Two-minute drill saves an otherwise bad day for the offense

By Jay Skurski

PITTSFORD – A pair of two-minute drills that resulted in touchdowns saved what was otherwise a day to forget for the Bills’ offense this morning.

Kevin Kolb directed the first scoring drive, completing three straight passes to Stevie Johnson to start. After a run for no gain and a sack by Jamie Blatnick, Kolb connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin, who beat Nickell Robey down the right sideline.

Jeff Tuel was next, and his first play in the two-minute session was a big one: a 49-yard gain down the right sideline to Da’Rick Rogers. Tuel then completed consecutive passes to Brandon Kaufman and Marcus Easley for short gains, before two straight run plays by Tashard Choice. On third-and-goal, Tuel hit Choice on a swing pass for a touchdown.

Continue reading "Day 16: Two-minute drill saves an otherwise bad day for the offense" »

Rookies account for all points but 6 in Bills' record-setting exhibition

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills set a club preseason record Sunday with 44 points against the Indianapolis Colts.

Rookies played a part in all but six of those points. They scored on offense, defense and special teams. A rookie quarterback took each snap.

"Man, I told the guys before leaving the field, as a unit we did really well," third-round pick Marquise Goodwin said. "We got a lot of things that we can work on.

"The rookie players came in and we did what we were supposed to. We did our job ... and made the Buffalo Bills organization look good out there."

Goodwin, a third-round pick, scored on a spectacular 107-yard kickoff return. Undrafted quarterback Jeff Tuel threw touchdown passes to undrafted receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Brandon Kaufman. Undrafted cornerback Jumal Rolle returned an interception for a touchdown.

The only veteran to score a touchdown, tight end Dorin Dickerson, caught a 17-yard strike from first-round pick EJ Manuel.

Sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins kicked two field goals and two extra points.

Second-round pick Robert Woods didn't get into the end zone, but he was an important part of Manuel's touchdown drive at the end of the first half. Manuel connected with Woods three times, twice for first downs, on the series.

"We're very proud," Manuel said. "We're all really good friends. Obviously, this is just the first preseason game. We have a long way to go. But I think we're starting to get ourselves some confidence."

Rookie quarterbacks took every Bills snap because Kevin Kolb didn't play. Manuel was 16 of 21 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Tuel completed his first nine passes and was 19 of 23 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Neither threw an interception.

Second-round linebacker Kiko Alonso had three tackles and a pass defensed.

What to look for in Bills-Colts exhibition Sunday

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- Here are a handful of things I'll be looking for Sunday afternoon, when the Buffalo Bills open their preseason against the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium:

EJ Manuel starts in his NFL debut. With veteran Kevin Kolb limited because he has missed so much practice time, Manuel will get the prime reps and perhaps get an extended look against a defense that with some dynamic players.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's defensive schemes unveiled -- even if it's just a little. Don't expect Pettine to unload his playbook on the Lucas Oil Stadium carpet. Limited snaps from key defensive components Kyle Williams and Mario Williams will further mute any insight we glean. But we should see at least a semblance of Pettine's philosophies in motion. And I think it will look significantly different than Dave Wannstedt's philosophies in suspended animation.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett deploys a hurried pace. The Bills have practiced fast, calling their plays as quickly as they can to keep the defense on its heels. What will it look like against another team? How effectively will Manuel and fellow rookie Jeff Tuel be able to process the plays?

Left guards Colin Brown and Doug Legursky in the spotlight. Buffalo let Andy Levitre walk in free agency, and head coach Doug Marrone essentially called out Brown and Legursky last week for not stepping forward more forcefully to fill the void.

Rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso in action. Manuel won't be the only rookie starter. Alonso, in fact, was listed as the starter long before Friday night, when Marrone announced Manuel would get the nod. Alonso has the reputation for being a sideline-to-sideline predator. Now we'll get to see what he looks like against first-string NFL players.

Young receivers will be on a fast track. Lucas Oil Stadium is regarded as having one of the NFL's best surfaces. Fans frustrated by Chan Gailey's conservative ways and Ryan Fitzpatrick's weak arm have been waiting to see Buffalo's receivers fly downfield. Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da'Rick Rogers are making their debuts, and sophomore T.J. Graham would like to fire up his jets, too.

Bills defensive backs have looked flimsy aside from Stephon Gilmore. The secondary has gotten beaten regularly in training camp. They'll face one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and won't catch much of a break when the second-stringer enters. That will be veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who beat the Bills last year with the Tennessee Titans.

Veteran kicker Rian Lindell has four games to keep his job; rookie Dustin Hopkins has four games to lose it. Buffalo will open in the same climate-controlled dome where Gailey didn't think Lindell could make a 52-yard field goal last year. Sunday could give Lindell a chance to show he's still got it -- or not.

Bills WRs willing to play in traffic will catch Doug Marrone's eye

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Much has been said about how the Buffalo Bills' flashy-yet-untested receiving group should be able to stretch the field this year.

An ability to catch the ball in traffic, however, could be the ticket to making the roster.

Bills coach Doug Marrone smiled when he talked about one of his favorite traits for a reliable receiver.

"To me," Marrone said, "I kind of value who's going over the middle."

Continue reading "Bills WRs willing to play in traffic will catch Doug Marrone's eye" »

MemoraBillia: Though Bills lead way, card industry grimaces

By Tim Graham

Turns out memorabilia speculators think the same way as NFL scouts.

When it comes to analyzing this year's rookie class, there hasn't been a lot of hope for superstardom.

Even so, there has been excitement about the Buffalo Bills' rookies.

Not only did they make EJ Manuel the first quarterback off the board, but they also obtained intriguing receivers Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da'Rick Rogers.

Continue reading "MemoraBillia: Though Bills lead way, card industry grimaces" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | [email protected]


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | [email protected]


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | [email protected]

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